Abner Butterfield Ice Cream...
Our ice cream starts with fresh cream and skim from hormone-free Virginia cows, along with sugar, a bit of corn syrup, and natural stabilizers and emulsifiers. The mixture is then homogenized, pasteurized, and packaged especially for us. At our plant, the custom formulation joins up with vanilla from Madagascar and other ingredients in a small batch freezer. We primarily use natural, simple, and local ingredients to create the best "homemade" ice cream possible while bypassing the short cuts that most ice cream shops take. We have found that this is absolutely the best approach to make incredibly good ice cream. We guarantee you'll enjoy it!
What is ice cream, really?
Ice cream is a frozen foam solution made up of skim milk (which is mostly water), milk solids, butterfat, sugar, flavorings and colors, and stabilizers/emulsifiers. Legally, ice cream is an FDA "standardized product" that must contain at least 10% butterfat and 20% total milk solids. All mixes must be pasteurized and frozen under agitation (churned).
At what temperature does ice cream freeze?
The water in ice cream starts freezing about 31.5F. It has a lower freezing point in the same way that adding salt to ice in a hand-crank churn lowers its freezing point. As more water freezes, the concentration of sugar and milk solids increases, lowering the freezing point further. Ultimately, the "freezing point" changes as the ice cream freezes so the "freezing point" is really a "freezing curve".
Does ice cream contain eggs?
Ice cream containing at least 1.4% egg yolk solids is called frozen custard or sometimes "Philadelphia style" ice cream. Home recipes frequently call for egg yolks to be added to the mix before cooking and chilling. The reason is that eggs contain a natural emulsifier, lecithin, that provides some extra body to the ice cream. Eggs aren't required in order for ice cream to be called "ice cream". Our proprietary mix does not contain eggs because they are not needed and because it is a potential allergen that can be easily avoided.
Does ice cream contain preservatives?
Ice cream mix is pasteurized, stored in sterile conditions, and then quickly frozen. Preservatives are not needed and generally are not used. Some additions to ice cream such as fruit or flavorings may have preservatives to enhance quality and freshness, however. We do not add any preservatives to our ice creams other than what may already be included in ingredients we use.
Does ice cream contain allergens?
Dairy itself is an allergen that accounts for approximately 40% of allergies in those individuals reporting food allergies. Fruits, chocolate, and nuts collectively account for another 25%. Individuals can also have allergies to eggs, food dyes, soy products, and wheat...all of which can be in ice cream or related desserts. So, the short answer is yes, ice cream does contain allergens. We are concerned with this issue and take a number of steps to minimize allergy issues for our customers including crossover avoidance procedures while making ice cream, using separate tools for handling nut-containing ice creams, and minimizing the use of food dyes and soy based products. If you have ANY question about allergy issues with respect to our ice creams, please ask! Oh, and in case you're wondering, lactose intolerance is not an allergy--we have quite a few customers that enjoy our ice cream despite being lactose intolerant--most take an enzyme called lactase (brand: Lactaid) and do just fine.
What about gluten?
Ice cream does not normally contain gluten. However, gluten may be found in some flavors or inclusions such as in cake batter or cookie dough ice creams. Most cones also contain gluten. If you have a gluten issue, please let us know and we'll alert you to which of our flavors you should avoid. We have foam cups available on the truck if you need to avoid cones. Not only are the foam cups gluten free, they're sugar free too!
How long does ice cream last?
The short answer is that if you're the occasional nibbler, ice cream can last in your home freezer at 0F-5F for 2-4 months, but it is best if eaten immediately after it is opened. The long answer is that it depends on the temperature history of the ice cream. Kept at -15F or below, ice cream "keeps" for up to a year. Handling from the plant to your store to your home means changes in temperature. Each time ice cream warms even at "below freezing" temperatures, tiny ice crystals in the ice cream grow just a little bit. After a few cycles of "heat shock", the ice crystals become evident in the ice cream. As long as the ice cream remains below 30F, you can still eat it safely, but it will not be at its best.
Is ice cream ever frozen solid?
Not really. As it gets colder, more and more of the water in ice cream freezes, but it is never completely frozen. At 25F, approximately 33% of the water in ice cream is frozen. At 20F, approximately 60% is frozen. At -15F, almost 90% is frozen. Ice cream is generally drawn about 22F and is still soft because much of the water is still liquid. "Hardening" at temperatures of 0F or colder freezes most of the remaining water and is the last step in manufacture.
What is "lite" ice cream?
If you carefully stroll the frozen dessert aisle at your local big box store, you'll find most products fall into three categories: ice cream, lite ice cream, and frozen desserts/novelties. "Lite" ice cream is essentially the same as "ice cream", except it has a butterfat content of less than 10%. Most "ice cream" desserts such as ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, and the like actually use "lite" ice cream. On the label it will indicate "lite" or "reduced fat". "Lite" does not necessarily mean less calories however--additional milk solids and sugar are frequently added to improve the body and texture of "lite" ice cream. Frozen desserts and novelties have no standards and can be practically anything.
What are emulsifiers?
Oil and water don't mix. Ice cream is a mix of butterfat and skim milk (and other stuff)... basically oil and water. Emulsifiers allow the two to mix without repelling one another and are necessary to provide good structure. Otherwise, the fat in the ice cream crystallizes into butter. Milk solids contain some natural emulsifiers but not in sufficient quantities to properly structure ice cream so they must be added. Eggs are sometimes included in ice creams--they provide a natural emulsifier called lecithin. "Mono- and diglycerides" or "polysorbate" are commonly used in many products and provide a useful and necessary function in ice cream without adding a potential allergen (eggs). Small amounts (less than 3/10 of one percent are included in the dairy products our creamery provides; we do not add any more as part of our manufacture.
What are stabilizers?
Stabilizers are commonly added to many food products. In ice cream, stabilizers help prevent bad effects of temperature change (aka heat shock), improve melting characteristics and most importantly, improve flavor release. Common stabilizers include pectin, gelatin, guar gum, locust bean gum, and xanthan gum. Quantities in ice cream are typically less than 3/10 of one percent. Small amounts are included in the dairy products our creamery provides; we do not add any more as part of our manufacture.
Can you make 'no sugar added' ice cream?
Yes and No. The "sweet" part is easily enough replaced by aspartame, ace-K, sugar alcohols, stevia, and so forth. But that is only part of the story. In ice cream, sugar adds to the solids count which is ultimately what give ice cream its chewiness, i.e. its thickness. Without solids, ice cream melts away to nothing. So, when you take sugar out, you have to put something else back in. Usually, it's dairy solids like caseinates and whey which add back chewiness but also change the flavor. It's ice cream, but just not the same.